Health Department bans Chinese cameras that filmed Matt Hancock affair

The Health Ministry has banned the purchase of cameras made by Chinese state-backed tech firm Hikvision amid allegations it was used to spy on the country’s Uyghur minority.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, ordered officials to stop buying security cameras from the company after a review of purchases raised ethical concerns.

It is believed to be the first department in Whitehall to block purchases of Hikvision products, of which more than a million are installed across Britain.

The department has dozens of cameras installed in its buildings, and a Hikvision camera recorded Matt Hancock kissing an aide last summer, costing the former health secretary his job.

Although a review did not appear to have raised any security issues with the cameras and that existing ones should remain in use, Mr Javid banned the purchase of new products.

A Whitehall source said: “Following a review in which ethical concerns were raised, the department has been instructed to cease purchasing any further equipment or services from the company, directly or indirectly. “

Over 1.3 million Hikvision cameras are installed in schools, hospitals and councils across Britain. The company has been blacklisted by the US government and last year the Foreign Affairs Committee recommended that it be banned in the UK.

Fraser Sampson, the biometrics and surveillance commissioner, recently pulled out of an industry conference to protest Hikvision’s proposed attendance.

The company is 42% owned by the Chinese state and has come under fire for participating in state contracts to monitor mosques and re-education camps in the western region of Xinjiang.

There are 82 Hikvision products in use at the Department of Health and Social Care, Health Minister Lord Syed Kamall told Lord David Alton in response to a recent parliamentary question.

A Hikvision camera was installed in Mr Hancock’s office and recorded the former health secretary kissing his assistant Gina Coladangelo last summer. A leak of the footage led Mr Hancock to resign and the camera was later removed.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We take the safety of our staff, systems and facilities very seriously and have robust measures in place. We do not comment on specific security provisions or procedures. »

Hikvision said it takes all ethical concerns seriously and the data is not sent to China.

Last summer, the Foreign Affairs Committee recommended that the government ban Hikvision from operating in the UK.

In 2019, Hikvision was added to the US Entity List, with the government saying it had “been involved in human rights violations and abuses in carrying out China’s campaign of suppression, detention mass arbitrariness and high-tech surveillance against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups”.

A Hikvision spokesperson said, “Hikvision takes all human rights reports very seriously and recognizes our responsibility to protect people and property. The company has engaged with governments around the world to clarify misunderstandings about the company, our business and address their concerns.

“In the recent past, we have co-operated with UK Government inquiries, including the Business and Foreign Affairs Select Committees, where the UK Government rejected the request for a ban on Hikvision’s continued operations in the UK .”

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